Dear Survivor: I am afraid of other men.

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Dear Fellow Survivor,

I am afraid of other men.

I only recently came to understand this. And I’m still coming to terms with it. But I am convinced that it is true.

The roots of my fear are not hard to understand. The person who abused me was male. He had gone through puberty, while I had not. As a result, his body was bigger than mine and more developed. As the abuse was happening, my young mind was looking for safety. It was looking for something that it could hold on to in order to prevent anything like the abuse from ever happening again. Young me concluded that anyone who was “more manly” than me was a threat to me. So, if I looked out for and avoided such “manly” men (in my estimation), I could be safe. Unfortunately, even after I went through puberty, my fatally flawed view of myself and others made EVERY other man look more manly than I was. So, for decades I have subconsciously viewed every other man, including my closest male friends, as a threat.

I know that I’m not alone in struggling with fear born out of childhood sexual abuse. A woman survivor I know fears all men, including her husband. Another survivor friend of mine will not allow his children to attend a sleepover at a friend’s house because he’s afraid that what happened to him might happen to his sons. Yet another survivor I know experiences overwhelming anxiety whenever he hears a particular hymn, because the abuse he experienced happened in a church.

My therapist has helped me understand some things about the fears we are experiencing. Our fears are real. And they are reasonable, given our experiences. It’s easy for us to shame ourselves for being afraid, but that is the last thing we should do. Shame intensifies fear. It won’t alleviate it. What we need when we’re afraid is safety, not shame.

So, where will we find the safety that we need? Our search for safety begins with God. In him, we find safety that is stronger than our fears. God tells us, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

You’ll notice that God doesn’t dismiss our fears as if they are nothing. Nor does he shame us for being afraid. Instead, he focuses our eyes on him, on his presence, on his strength, and on his help. He promises that we are not alone as we struggle with our fear. Instead, as a friend of mine recently told me, our Savior walks with us through these scary times and says, “It’s OK to enter the darkness. I did, too, and came out the other side alive. So will you.”

Regardless of how fearful we may feel, we can know that in Jesus we are safe. He has walked through the darkness for us, and now he is walking beside us as we walk through our darkness. He holds us with his righteous right hand. He will never let us go. In him we will find safety whenever we are afraid.

In Christ,
Your Brother Survivor

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This entry is part 7 of 10 in the series Dear Fellow Survivor